Oct 8, 2019 | Atlanta, GA
The United States has recently witnessed a spate of lung injuries associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping. E-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a liquid and produce an aerosol (small particles in the air). The liquid usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and can sometimes contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinoid (CBD) oils. As of Oct. 1, there have been 1,080 cases of lung injury reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 48 states and one U.S. territory — and 18 deaths in 15 states.
“This outbreak is particularly concerning because it affects otherwise healthy young people, in the age group of the majority of our students,” said Dr. Benjamin Holton, senior director of Stamps Health Services.
Approximately two thirds of the lung injury cases reported to the CDC have occurred among 18 to 34 year olds; three quarters of cases have occurred among males. Locally, the Georgia Department of Public Health has confirmed eight cases of severe respiratory illness in individuals who reported a history of vaping, with additional cases being reviewed. Symptoms of the illness include cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, all of which worsen over time.
“This is a complex investigation,” explained Dr. Ann Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, during a telebriefing on Sept. 19. “This may turn into finding multiple issues that are of concern rather than a single product or substance.”
Until more is known about these lung injuries and their causes, the CDC recommends that individuals consider not using e-cigarette or vaping products.
Beyond this specific public health crisis, e-cigarettes are not considered safe for children, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.
“There is still so much we don’t know about the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes or vaping products,” Holton said. “E-cigarettes can contain other harmful substances besides nicotine.”
Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deeply into lungs, flavorings, volatile organic compounds, and cancer-causing chemicals are just some of the other substances that one may inhale when using e-cigarettes.
“We strongly encourage students to avoid using them,” he concluded.
For more information about e-cigarettes, vaping, and the outbreak, visit the CDC's website.